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Carbon Monoxide (CO) 

Carbon Monoxide diagramThis colourless, odourless and tasteless gas can be very dangerous.  It reduces the capacity of blood to transport oxygen, so exposure to CO in concentrations above 4000 parts per million (ppm) can cause death.  Long-term exposure is thought to cause health problems for people with cardiovascular disease.  Alberta Environment air quality standards set maximum permissible exposure levels at 13.0 parts per billion (ppb) over 1 hour and an average of 5.0 ppb over any 8 hour period.

Carbon Monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels containing carbon.  As a result, cars , buses, furnaces, fireplaces and industry are major sources of CO.  Carbon Monoxide levels tend to peak during morning and evening rush hours and in cold weather.

Testing air samples for the amount of infrared light they absorb monitors carbon monoxide levels.  The more infrared light that is absorbed, the higher the concentration of Carbon Monoxide.

Reprinted with permission of Alberta Community Development, Cultural Facilities and Historical Resources Division.

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